Habib's Story - Refugee Council

Habib’s Story

Habib* escaped from Afghanistan and made a dangerous journey to the UK, crossing the channel in a small boat. He hopes to be reunited with his wife and two small children.

I left Afghanistan in 2021 because I was scared that when the Taliban came, they would kill me. I left two weeks before the Taliban came, there was a lot of fighting everywhere.

When I was in Afghanistan, I worked for a development and education organisation, we published schoolbooks for Afghan children. I was in Kabul, before the Taliban took over.

The Taliban sent me a warning letter because of my work. They thought we were brain-washing children for democracy, by publishing non-Muslim books – the books were from a British company, so they believed they were not good for Afghan children.

I couldn’t go to my own village, or they would kill me. Imagine what your life is like, if you can’t go to your own house. The situation was very dangerous.

My wife decided I had to leave Afghanistan. She told me – at least you will still be alive.

My wife and children are still there. I have two kids, I haven’t even met my second daughter. I arrived in the UK on the same day she was born.

The way here was 100% dangerous. Sometimes we didn’t eat for three or four days, we just ate leaves on the trees. Sometimes we were walking, sometimes we went by car, we didn’t know the way, everything was in the hands of agents. If they said sit down, we sat, if they said stand up, we did, if they said run, we ran. We were under their control. They hurt us, they swore at us, they didn’t treat us as human. When I was on the way, I saw a lot of people who were trying to join their families in Europe. We were afraid of the smugglers, but also the soldiers and the police in other countries, like Iran or Turkey – they could kill you. Women and younger boys were sometimes raped. The journey took me around four or five months.

We didn’t know if we’d get here safely or not. We didn’t know if we’d get here safely or not.

I came across the channel by boat. The boat was made for five to eight people, we were more than thirty people. We didn’t know if we’d get here safely or not. I want to thank the British force that saved us, because if they hadn’t, maybe I wouldn’t be here today.

When I first arrived, I claimed asylum. They took me to a detention centre. They gave me five pounds, and also a phone and SIM card. I called my home to tell them that I’d arrived here in the UK. I was shocked after crossing the water. I was really tired.

I called my house. They told me that my wife was in hospital. My baby was born by caesarean operation, so my wife was not able to talk.

It’s hard to live without your family, alone. I lived in different hotels and in a shared house. Everything is very expensive, it was really difficult to manage all week. We just about managed to buy food, I couldn’t buy anything else for myself.

I know it’s difficult for the government to support all refugees, but if they gave us a work permit, we could help support the government!

I’m young, I have energy to work, and support myself, I wanted to study and also to work.

Sometimes I feel I have no one. It’s really difficult for my family as well. My wife is not allowed to go outside alone, even to get milk powder for my kids, she has to ask someone else to get it.

I do the best I can for them here. I call them on the phone. The children are small, they don’t understand. My first daughter, when she answers, her first words are ‘where are you, where are you? Come!’ Sometimes, my wife tells me that she’s asks – ‘everyone has a father, where is ours?’ In Afghanistan there is no freedom of speech, few women’s rights, nothing.

After two years, my lawyer called me and said I’d got refugee status.

When I was an asylum seeker, I didn’t feel like a member of society, but the day I got my decision that changed.

I was in a shopping centre when I got the call. It was amazing. I didn’t believe him at first.

They kicked me out of my accommodation. They gave me around 14 days, they said you have to leave or we will change the locks. They told me to take my stuff to the dining room and changed the locks on my room. I slept for two nights in the dining room.

Now I’m staying with a friend. It’s very difficult because there’s no space. To be honest when they have guests I sometimes sleep in the car. He’s helped me a lot, he’s a good person. And I can work now, I’ve got a job.

When I got my status I wanted to bring my family, my wife and two daughters. I asked the Home Office. It took about six months to get Afghan passports for my children. The Afghan authorities kept asking about me – where is the father of this child? My wife had to go every day and wait – the stress is affecting her.

I can’t find a lawyer to apply for my family reunion. I don’t know how long it will take. You understand, a husband and wife, they can’t survive without each other. It’s been three years.

People hear that we’re coming here for benefits. They can’t imagine that someone might have to leave their own country. But your country is your country, where you live, where you’re born. There are good people and bad people everywhere. The majority of Afghans are good, and if there was no war, no Taliban, we would never come here. Don’t judge all Afghans by one bad person – if someone does something wrong, it’s down to him, not to all Afghans.

I hope they give me a chance to also bring my family, and one day, I hope to do something good for the British, for England.

If there’s a legal way for people to come, and for people to join their families, they won’t take the risk – they won’t take an illegal way. If there’s a legal way available, the Home Office will be able to check, and know who they are, and it will be better for UK security too. Most of the family members who want to come are women and children, who are at risk in Afghanistan.

* Name changed.